Scripture Reading for Today: John 3:22-30 (read it here)
Before John was put into prison, he and Jesus were simultaneously engaged in a ministry of baptism as a sign of preparation for the coming of the Kingdom of God.
Jesus was in Judea and John in a place called Aenon. A dispute arose between John’s disciples and a Jew over ceremonial washings. The disciples brought this dispute to John the Baptist with the concern that Jesus was baptizing on the other side of the Jordan and many people were coming to him.
John’s disciples were worried. They did not like to see their master take second place; and they did not like to see him abandoned while the crowds flocked to hear and see this new teacher, Jesus.
John’s disciples seemingly were expecting him to defend his own ministry and perhaps criticize Jesus. John did just the opposite. The dispute gave John the Baptist an opportunity to bear witness to Jesus as being greater than he.
In answer to their complaints, it would have been easy for John the Baptist to feel wounded, neglected, and unjustifiably forgotten. He told his disciples that he had never expected anything else. He assured them that his was not the leading place, but that he was merely sent as the herald, the forerunner, and the preparer for the greater one to come.
John was happy to play the subordinate role because that was the task God had given him. In other words, for John, any task done for God was necessarily great, because all service ranks the same with God.
To explain his subordinate position to Jesus, John the Baptist used a very vivid picture that every Jew would recognize, for it was part of the heritage of Jewish thought. He called Jesus the bridegroom and himself the best man, the friend of the bridegroom.
The best man, as the friend of the bridegroom, had a unique place at a Jewish wedding. He acted as the liaison between the bride and the bridegroom; he arranged the wedding; he took out the invitations; and he presided at the wedding feast. And, once the wedding ceremonies were over, and the young couple entered the bridal chamber, the best man willingly and gladly faded out of the center of the picture because his task of bringing the bride and bridegroom together had been finished.
So, when John’s task of arranging the marriage between Jesus (the bridegroom) and Israel (the bride) was complete, he was happy to fade into obscurity, for his work was done.
It was not with envy that he said that Jesus must increase and he must decrease. It was with joy that he attached people to Jesus and not to himself. In short, John never allowed personal interests to obscure his mission to steer others toward the Lord.
In the Eucharist we acknowledge our poverty, and we recognize that Jesus is the source of our happiness and fulfillment.
Let us serve the Lord with all our energies of body, mind, and heart, so that he may increase.
Sustained by Mary, let us never be dominated by envy or resentfulness for other people’s success.
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Let us make this a blessed day.
Keep Jesus in your mind and heart and share him with all you meet.
Fr. Michael Brizio, IMC
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